Globalization's Hidden Cost: 1 Ship's pollution = 50 million Cars

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by vrDrew, Sep 19, 2016.

  1. vrDrew, Sep 19, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016

    vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #1
    Massive container ships have totally re-written the economics of international manufacturing. Huge vessels, capable of carrying 10,000 or more standard shipping containers each, can move a ton of freight more than a thousand nautical miles on a single gallon of fuel oil. This means it's now cheaper to transport products all the way from Shenzhen in China to Long Beach, than it is for UPS or FedEx to move that same item from an Amazon warehouse across town to your door.

    The bad news?

    The container ships use so-called "Bunker Fuel" - a low-grade heavy petroleum distillate that is extremely high in sulphur, carcinogens, and other harmful agents. According to The Guardian:

    Emphasis mine.

    Note: Much of our recent environmental discussion has centered on CO2 emissions; due to the link between CO2 and man-made climate change. And from that perspective, massive container ships don't seem so bad.

    But, much like the diesel automobiles now polluting Europe's cities; diesel-powered ships actually pump far more of the toxic chemicals that actually cause immediate harm to humans (and other lifeforms) than we would like.

    The Good News?

    Led by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the shipping industry is moving to adopt far stricter controls on the amount of sulphur and other hazardous compounds in fuel oil

     
  2. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #2
    I'm sure when someone proposed nuclear-powered cargo ships, that idea was promptly shot-down by "environmentalists" and "green energy czars" despite the fact that the U.S. Navy has been successfully and safely operated nuclear-powered ships for over 60 years.
     
  3. vrDrew, Sep 19, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016

    vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #3
    I can think of a dozen reasons besides anti-nuke activism for not powering cargo ships with nuclear reactors. They would be cost-prohibitive just from a crew standpoint. The skills necessary to run a diesel engine-room are possessed by tens of thousands of people. There are a relative handful of people in the world who know how to run a nuclear reactor. Nuclear power makes sense in submarines and aircraft carriers.
     
  4. unlinked macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    "15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760m cars"

    Maybe we could start with the 15 biggest ships.
     
  5. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #5
    Actually, there are thousands of people who are currently operating the world's nearly 500 commercial nuclear power plants and many more operating various research reactors. Many universities in the U.S. offer nuclear engineering programs. A shortage of qualified nuclear operators doesn't exist.

    What is your solution, clipper ships?
     
  6. smallcoffee macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    Fortunately many greens are realizing that nuclear power is a viable alternative and that it was a mistake to be so anti-nuclear power.

    But even so, doesn't mean it isn't a problem that needs a solution.
     
  7. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #7
    In any event, global shipping isn't doing so well these days, so that will reduce greenhouse emissions for the time being.
     
  8. yaxomoxay macrumors 68000

    yaxomoxay

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    #8
    One second. In what time span? One ship in its entire life? In a year? How about the cars?
     
  9. Eraserhead macrumors G4

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    #9
    Not true. In 1974 it would have cost no more to run than a non nuclear ship. And yes that's a peak in oil costs. But they are hardly unaffordable.
     
  10. vrDrew, Sep 19, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016

    vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #10
    Believe it or not, there is actually a company with a proposal (if not actual plans) to build wind-powered cargo ships.

    [​IMG]

    But no. That's not really a practical alternative. Most international cargo is too time-sensitive to be consigned to the vagaries of wind, tide, and current.

    IMHO the best option is to push for higher standards for cleaner diesel fuel oil (like the EPA is mandating.) And perhaps one of the benefits of international trade agreements like the TPP (of which I know there are some skeptics) is that it makes it easier to get your trading partners on-board with environmental compliance. You want to ship your products to the US? Fine, but they've got to be shipped on clean-burning ships.

    The idea of nuclear-powered cargo ships? IMHO, not with current reactor technology. But its worth at least considering for the future. I'm very impressed with the possibilities of the Molten-Salt thorium technology. But we are at least a decade or two away from commercial power generation with that model.
     
  11. Mousse macrumors 68000

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    #11
    I'm surprised no one has brought up security concerns regarding nuclear powered ships. Yes, the military has operated nuclear carriers for decades. No one has enough might to hijack a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Hijacking a cargo ship with a civilian crew, well a bunch of former Somali farmers can do that. Just think of the damage a rogue nation or terrorist group can do if they get their mitts on a mobile nuclear reactor?
     
  12. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #12
    Wait, wait, wait.

    You're seriously suggesting that private corporations, who are shown to cut corners on costs anywhere they can (especially safety) should be trusted to operate and maintain nuclear powered ships? And then you go on to cite the US Navy, which is constantly running repairs and maintenance as an example?

    You understand that shipping container ships are always registered to the countries with the most lax laws right? Who is going to protect one of these ships if they are pirated? Who is going to somehow recover a reactor from a sunken ship when one goes down (tragically) in open seas which happens several times a year.

    Have you bothered to think about what you're suggesting....at all?
     
  13. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    #13
    Private corporations already run nuclear power plants. The U.S. constantly runs repairs and maintenance on everything, as does the Army, Air Force, Marines, and anyone else with large, complex machines. Several large container ships do not sink every year.
     
  14. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #14

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/10/shipping-disasters-we-never-hear-about

    "On average, two ships a week are lost, one way or another. That doesn’t take into account smaller vessels or fishing craft."


    Again, who is going to force compliance of nuclear cargo ships when companies are allowed to register them to whichever country offers the least amount of regulation? You're just asking for trouble with what you're describing.
     
  15. ActionableMango, Sep 19, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016

    ActionableMango macrumors 604

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    #15
    That "good news" seems like green washing to me. I hate bunker fuel and its effects on the environment, but even if you successfully banned all ships from using it world wide, it won't amount to a millimousefart's worth of difference.

    Heavy fuel (fuel oil, bunker fuel) exists because we pull oil out of the earth and then fractionally distill it, resulting in different types of fuel. One of the types of fuel that comes out of that process is heavy fuel oil.

    So let's say we stop using it in ships. What, we're just going to put it in barrels and not use it at all? Or pour it back into the well? That's laughable.

    100% for sure we will just burn it to generate electricity, or burn it for heat, or whatever else. My friend's old house in Seattle has a big tank in his back yard for fuel oil and that's how his house is heated. There are millions more like it.

    Ban the ships from US ports, then the ships will just go elsewhere. Ban the ships from ports worldwide, then you've just made fuel oil cheaper for heating and electricity generation. Even if the developed world bans all types of uses for it altogether, it's still being pulled out of the ground. We'll just sell it to China for electricity generation and it will still get burned.

    I've seen this debated in environmental forums for years, and the only possibility of using fuel oil but still improving things is to somehow ensure that wherever it is burned, it is burned in a process as cleanly as possible (preheating the fuel, soot traps, etc.) So theoretically there might be a tiny improvement if we could somehow ensure that the heavy fuel oil we stopped using in ships would only go to countries and power plants that burned it better, but the reality is that the oil will just be on the global market and go everywhere.

    The only way we'll stop burning heavy fuel oil altogether is to stop pulling oil out of the ground in the first place.
     
  16. aaronvan Suspended

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    #16
    Well, I'm fresh out of ideas then. Guess I'll invest in some oceanfront property in Nevada.
     
  17. cfedu macrumors 65816

    cfedu

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    #17

    They do but a power plant is very different as it is stationary and subject to lots of regulations. There is always someone responsible for the reactor and the people responsible are always know. With a nuclear powered boat flying the flag of some third world nation woukd be a scary thought. I would trust north Korea and Iran with nuclear weapons before I trusta nuclear container ship operated by some company who is the lowest bidder.

    Even if the USA could heavily regulate the ships in there waters, all that woukd do is pass the buck to some company from a third world nation who would buy it. This would bring a while new meaning to the term e waste.
     
  18. thermodynamic Suspended

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    #18
    Ideally, wouldn't a true global economy have plants strategically placed around the world and not have one fab plant at location x, another center at location y, then get all squirmy when something happens - do people not remember the flood from a vew years ago that show down all the HDD manufacturing companies, with prices for all going up - and prices (for most) going down a year or so later?

    But who wants to restructure when blaming everyone else and other manipulative tactics are cheaper?
    --- Post Merged, Sep 19, 2016 ---
    There's a time and place for both.

    What scares is if people engage in magical thinking and cut taxes/revenue in believing nothing ever goes bad or collapses and then, oops, bridges collapse and fail neglected regulatory inspections, water systems break, and so on, yet private industry isn't doing anything to help except to bleat at government for inefficiency then begging for an expedited replacement project, all while demanding more corporate welfare, tax cuts, tax breaks, more bailouts, and so on because their ability to leech has no bounds.

    Still, Norquist gets off in thinking the USA should drown in a bathtub, while saying nothing on what should replace it. He must be really enjoying life nowadays. Don't believe me? Google his quote. Or maybe since the time he said it he realized he made a mistake after problem after problem started developing and whatever plans he thought would happen didn't?
     
  19. zioxide macrumors 603

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    #20
    Yeah, but they are in static fortified locations. They don't just sail around the world through massive storms, areas ridden with piracy, etc.
     
  20. aaronvan Suspended

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    #21
    Perhaps foreign-flagged vessels manned completely by US Merchant Mariners? It's not like some little tinpot Greek or Liberian shipping tycoon could afford a 500-meter, nuclear powered leviathan. Just throwing out ideas.
     
  21. cfedu macrumors 65816

    cfedu

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    #22
    It might work for some of the bigger guys with lots of regulations, I'm just worried what happens after these ships after they are sold in the used market. I'm all for nuclear energy, I just dont think this is the best application of the technology.

    Considering there are very few nation who used nuclear propulsion in navel applications for their military, the cost must be prohibitive. Cleaning the diesel fuel might be the best option and later on we can use hydrogen cells.
     
  22. vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #23


    Crew costs make up between 40% and 50% of the total costs of intercontinental ocean shipping. That's part of the reason shipping companies are going to ever large container ships. A 10,000 container ship only needs about 10% more crew than a 5,000 container vessel does.

    Crew costs are also the reason so many ships are flagged in weird foreign countries. The ships officers might be well-paid Netherlanders or Swedes, but the deck hands , cooks, and cleaners will be Phillipino or Malay. There are actually serious proposals to build almost fully autonomous ocean freighters, although presumably, they'd still require human pilots to get them in and out of port.

    There are a heck of a lot of diesel-powered ocean-going vessels out there, beyond just the massive container ships, and each of them - in their way - is probably a worse contributor to the problem of burning nasty bunker fuel. Estimates vary, but I've heard that as many as 50,000 ships in the global international cargo business; with approximately a million people working as crew on them.

    It will probably never be easy to find a solution to the problem of air (and water) pollution caused by diesel-powered cargo ships. And very possibly alternative power sources may be part of the solution. But it seems to me that cleaning up the fuel that those ships burn might be a good first step.

    Drastically lowered shipping costs have played a huge role not just in globalization; but in the scope of worldwide economic development. I think, however, at some point we might need to pay just a little bit more so that the ships that carry that cargo don't poison our atmosphere and oceans. And as the world's top destination for transatlantic and transpacific cargo - the United States is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in making that happen. I guess I look to the incredible progress we made in curbing automobile emissions and say there ought to be a way of making serious progress in cutting ships' smokestack pollution too.
     

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